5 times more likely to have heart disease in your 50s. Emergency staff face even greater risk.

Cardiac issues were once referred to as an ‘old man’s disease.’ But neither is true, from the perspective of age or gender. As plaque builds up in a person’s arteries, the greater the chance of heart failure. People as young as 40 need to begin paying attention to this, however the danger zone is in the 50’s.

The dual pressure of home and work life makes women susceptible to high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney failure – putting women at risk of high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.

According to Live Strong, emergency responders are a high-risk group, due to prolonged stress levels, obesity, and overall poor health (as an extension of the job). Firefighters recorded higher cholesterol levels, yet all types of first responders are exposed to heart health risk factors.

With hypertension being the most common chronic illness among Australians (12.4%), a condition that increases the risk of a heart attack, managing it is imperative for emergency staff.

Five risk factors

Alongside high blood pressure, key lifestyle choices contribute to heart disease. These include physical inactivity, alcohol use, smoking, and high body mass. Screening tests become a yearly or bi-yearly regime for people in their 50s. For instance, heart disease risk assessments, blood pressure checks, and cholesterol and lipids levels.

Hijack long-term chronic stress with daily habits

Exercise and diet are critical for emergency response staff. Physical movement will keep workers strong and able to perform in their demanding roles (while also serving to manage and minimise chronic stress).

Emergency support staff are at risk of being in a constant ‘fight or flight’ state, due to the nature of the work. When stress is constant, the body remains in high gear, which causes people to seek relief. Alcoholism and poor food choices tend to follow, damaging the artery walls.

Alcohol can become a tool to momentarily erase trauma experienced on the job. Instead, first responders should invest in healthy alternatives, such as yoga and meditation, journaling or speaking with a mental health professional. Smoking, another high-risk coping mechanism, can be replaced for healthier outlets.

Eating a balanced diet will curb obesity, control blood pressure levels and help responders cope with the physical and emotional demands of the job. Maintain a balanced diet of the five food groups, including:

  • Vegetables and legumes (beans)
  • Fruits
  • Grains and cereals
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes (beans) tofu, nuts, seeds
  • Milk, cheese, yoghurt or alternatives.

Responders must pay attention to any ‘stress eating’, instead fueling the body with nutrients, not quick feel-good comfort foods.

Health insurance designed for emergency support workers (and their families)

Emergency Services Health insurance provides support for you, and your loved ones. With services like exercise physiology, dietary, acupuncture and complementary therapies, we love taking care of your heart. Our extensive hospital protection covers heart and vascular services.

You’re the heartbeat of our community. And, we keep yours strong. 

Cover like no other

We understand the demands of front line work more than any other insurer. After all, we've been looking after the health and wellbeing of the police community for more than 85 years. Whether you’re already a member, or interested in becoming one, call us to find out how to get the most out of our cover and benefits. We’re here to help.

Please note: some articles on this website are compiled from material obtained externally. Although we make every effort to ensure information is correct at the time of publication, we accept no responsibility for its accuracy. Health-related articles are intended for general information only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult your doctor. The views expressed in articles are not necessarily those of Police Health.